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Facts as cudgels

Brian Oberkirch lambasts Tim Russert for doing gotcha journalism on Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in Lousiana. Russert replayed a tape of Broussard’s appearance on Russert’s show on three weeks ago and interrogated him about the precise dates on which a friend called his mother’s nursing home and whether the 92-year-old woman drowned on August 29 or Sept 2. Part of Broussard’s response:

Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man’s tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding? What kind of sick mind, what kind of black-hearted people want to nitpick a man’s mother’s death? They just buried Eva last week. I was there at the wake. Are you kidding me? That wasn’t a box of Cheerios they buried last week. That was a man’s mother whose story, if it is entirely broadcast, will be the epitome of abandonment.

Here’s some of what Brian says:

Here’s a new way to think about blogging and all forms of consumer generated media: forget fact checking [your] ass. That’s a parlor game for grad students and professional cynics. Yes, you caught some high-profile folks screwing up. Good on you. We’re frying bigger fish now, and you can’t play with us if you haven’t got the emotional heft. I’ve seen do-it-yourself media help us reconnect as human beings. Help one another as individuals in need. Answer a calling to the better parts of ourselves. That’s where I’m putting my energy. My hope is that whenever someone like Aaron Broussard utters a lamentation that has to be heard, that we’ll broadcast it to the four corners and find someone who can help, right away.

In this case, it was worse than a parlor game. It was an ambush. It was an attempt to discredit the story’s teller in order to deny the story’s meaning. It was contemptible. And, Brian points out, it didn’t help that Russert consistently mispronounced the drowned woman’s name. [Tags: ]


September 28: The story is more complex than I knew, and Broussard was less likely telling the truth than I thought.

It’s still embarrassing that Russert is still as close as mainstream TV news gets to a reporter who asks “hard questions.”

7 Responses to “Facts as cudgels”

  1. Facts as cudgels

    Facts as cudgels

  2. Sorry,

    Broussard wasn’t wrong, he lied. Rodrigure himself says he never spoke to Broussard about it or told him any of the things he said. Attack Bush and FEMA all you want, that doesn’t allow for lying. Those of us down here who had a brain in our head knew he was lying, who in St. Bernard had telephone service? Nobody, and Broussard knew that as well. Of course those of us down here know Broussard and the racist corrupt Sherriff he tried to make into a hero. Being a liberal should mean despising the kind of people so many are now trying to defend. We lived through it with Edwards, Landrieu, Morial, Long and any number of these populist demagogues. You don’t have to live with them, we do. Find someone else to bash Bush with, lionizing these fools, charlatans and crooks is beyond belief and a betrayal of all liberals are supposed to hold dear.

  3. Tim Russert Can’t Handle the Truth

    Dave Weinberger writes: Brian Oberkirch lambasts Tim Russert for doing gotcha journalism on Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish in Lousiana. Russert replayed a tape of Broussard’s appearance on Russert’s show on three weeks ago and interroga…

  4. It would be nice if Lance of 9/27 would offer some facts to back his accusations that Aaron Broussard was lying…and even if he exaggerated the facts, the ambush Russert pulled was one of the low points in modern journalism…I expect that lack of professionalism from reporters at Fox, not NBC/MSNBC and especially Russert who has softballed the Bush Adminstration for the better part of the last five years. Edward R. Murrow must be rolling over in his grave…

  5. Lance2,

    Well, I could start with the tale about telephone service. There was none in St. Bernard. I could then point out that the man who supposedly told the tale to Broussard disavowed it. He didn’t say “lie” but he did say he hadn’t told Broussard any of what Broussard related and couldn’t see how he was confused. The details were not just wrong, everything he said was wrong, except that Rodrigue’s mother died. He made it up plain and simple. Nobody claims they told him anything remotely like what he said on TV.

    If you are doubting my chracterization of the government in general down in Jefferson Parish let me know and I’ll get you some articles on Broussard’s sidekick Harry Lee who Broussard tried to turn into some hero. It’ll make your skin crawl. Every fact he related that day, not just this story has turned out false or extremely misleading. That is a lie. Maybe he didn’t know it was false in the same sense that I don’t know you haven’t molested little boys. Yet if I cliamed it was true of you it would mean I am a liar.

    This is ridiculous. Do you know anything about the people you are defending? Do you know what these people represent? If you want to twist yourself into knots defending someone, defend Nagin. I think he did an awful job, but I am hoping he can recover and become the kind of politician Louisiana needs more of and some of us down here hoped, but Aaron Broussard and Harry Lee? Fred Phelps is a Democrat, do we have to defend him as well? What if David Duke becomes a liberal in general and changes parties but still maintains his racist views, is that OK?

    As for ambush, how did he allow Broussard to get away with changing the subject of questioning his veracity? Talk about softball and allowing himself to be rolled. Russert is pathetic but not because he asked Broussard to come clean. If Broussard had any conscience the man would have apologized, blamed the stress or whatever. Instead he attacked and turned on the fake tears again.

  6. Lance2,

    I should also note Broussard’s response:

    “Listen, sir, somebody wants to nitpick a man’s tragic loss of a mother because she was abandoned in a nursing home? Are you kidding?”

    Nowhere, weeks after he had the chance to get the story straight, does he say he was wrong. No, he acts as if people are nitpicking Rodrigue, which nobody is. Instead he attacks people who point out nothing he said was true. Nothing. Every detail was wrong and every detail was used to a particular purpose and he can’t admit it. He also knew about the question ahead of time. Did you know that? This is the response? Acting as if he were ambushed, and you ate it up? This was a calculated response so that he didn’t have to admit he lied. He knew the question was coming and he never addressed it but attacked those who question him. That is not the mark of someone who was confused, that is the mark of someone who knows he has been caught and wants to put the focus somewhere else while implying it was someone else who got the story wrong, his supposed friend Thomas Rodrigue. Tommy needs to pick better friends.

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